Tag Archives: NSF

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) Awards

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is one of the most prestigious awards to support graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Nearly 17,000 applications were submitted for the 2016 NSF Fellowship competition, resulting in 2,000 award offers. This spring, 14 current and former Texas A&M University students were selected as 2016 NSF Graduate Fellows, while 21 were named Honorable Mention. Several of these students participated in LAUNCH programs at Texas A&M, including 5 who completed an undergraduate research thesis as an Undergraduate Research Scholar, 4 who participated in the University Honors program, one Undergraduate Research Ambassador, and two authors for Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal.

Alexandria Payne ’16, Bioenvironmental Sciences and Wildlife & Fisheries
Alexandria Payne ’16, Bioenvironmental Sciences and Wildlife & Fisheries

2016 NSF Graduate Fellow Alexandria Payne recently graduated from Texas A&M, where she double-majored in bioenvironmental sciences and wildlife & fisheries sciences. Alex began her research experience in the labs of Dr. Karen-Beth Scholthof and Dr. Herman Scholthof in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology. Alex will continue at A&M for a PhD in entomology, studying with Dr. Juliana Rangel in the Honey Bee Lab, where Alex will investigate the interactions of honey bees and the invasive Tawny crazy ant. Alex, a University Scholar and Undergraduate Research Scholar, was previously nominated for the Udall Scholarship recognizing commitment to environmental issues. She graduated cum laude with the Honors Fellows and Honors in Bioenvironmental Sciences distinctions. Alex has an upcoming publication, “Do More Promiscuous Honey Bee Queens Produce Healthier Hives?” in Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal, Volume 8, to be published in fall 2016.

In addition to the GRFP, Alex’s graduate study will be supported by Texas A&M’s Diversity Fellowship. She also received the Senior Merit award from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Reflecting on the benefits of the GRFP, Alex says, “This fellowship has given me the gift of being able to choose research topics I find interesting and wish to delve into. I wish to advise everyone to apply for or reach for the seemingly impossible as you may surprise yourself with the results.”

Ana Chang-Gonzalez ‘16, Biomedical Engineering
Ana Chang-Gonzalez ‘16, Biomedical Engineering

Ana Chang-Gonzalez, another 2016 NSF Graduate Fellow, recently graduated from Texas A&M with a bachelor’s in biomedical engineering and the Engineering Honors distinction. As an undergraduate, she volunteered in the Molecular Biomechanics Lab and conducted protein simulation in an AggiE-Challenge. She also began working with the University of Pittsburgh’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories to develop software for biological purposes. With NSF support, Ana will continue that project in her graduate studies, expanding a software that builds computational models of biological images and analyzes them for quantitative information. Ana is a former resident of the Honors Housing Community and a member of Alpha Eta Mu Beta, the Biomedical Engineering Honor Society, and Tau Beta Pi, the Engineering Honor Society. She has an upcoming publication, “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Numbers,” in Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal, Volume 8, to be published in fall 2016.

A three-time recipient of the Dean’s Honor Roll, Ana says that, through her NSF application, she “learned how to neatly craft all [her] experiences into a concise form, how to formulate a research proposal, and the value of having faculty mentors that truly care about [her] success.” This fellowship will allow her “to focus more on conducting high-impact research and making a true difference in the field.”

LAUNCH would like to congratulate the Aggie 2016 National Science Foundation Graduate Fellows and Honorable Mentions and acknowledge their valuable contributions to our programs!

National Science Foundation 2016 Graduate Research Fellowship Awardees:

  • Shelby Bieritz, biomedical engineering. 2014 Fulbright Scholar.
  • Timothy Brown, physics of materials research.
  • Stacy Cereceres, biomedical engineering.
  • Ana Chang Gonzalez, bioengineering. Engineering Honors, Explorations
  • Chace Holzheuser, evolutionary biology.
  • Ethan Kamphaus, materials engineering. Engineering Honors.
  • Shannon Murray, materials engineering.
  • David Parobek, macromolecular, supramolecular, & nanochemistry.
  • Alexandria Payne, entomology. University Honors Program, Honors in Bioenvironmental Sciences, Undergraduate Research Scholar, University Scholar, Udall Scholarship nominee, Explorations
  • John Peters, neurosciences. University Honors Program, Undergraduate Research Scholar.
  • Karis Tang-Quan, bioengineering.
  • Taneidra Walker, biomedical engineering.
  • Jessica Wang, paleoclimate geosciences. Undergraduate Research Scholar.
  • Sarah Ward, macromolecular, supramolecular, & nanochemistry.

Honorable Mention:

  • Kristine Arvola, tissue engineering.
  • Alyssa Bennett, ocean engineering. University Honors Program, Honors Housing Community Sophomore & Junior Advisor.
  • Megan Brooks, materials engineering.
  • Erin Buchholtz, ecology.
  • Prachi Dhavalikar, biomedical engineering.
  • Garrett Edwards, biochemistry.
  • Grace Fletcher, biomedical engineering.
  • Thomas Fowler, aeronautical & aerospace engineering.
  • Julie Hammett, systems engineering.
  • Joshua Herrington, aeronautical & aerospace engineering.
  • Chris Holland, organismal biology.
  • Rania Labib, mechanical engineering.
  • Pierre Lau, environmental biology.
  • James Moore, chemical synthesis. Undergraduate Research Scholar.
  • Anish Patel, chemical engineering.
  • Zachary Popkin-Hall, evolutionary biology.
  • Ryan Priest, environmental engineering.
  • Mayra Ramirez, developmental psychology.
  • Elise Voltura, environmental biology.
  • Elizabeth Walsh, physiology.
  • Randy White, particle physics. Undergraduate Research Scholar, Undergraduate Research Ambassador.

Written by Adelia Humme ’15, Program Coordinator for National Fellowships, LAUNCH

Edited by Annabelle Aymond ’14, Administrative Assistant for Undergraduate Research, LAUNCH


Seventeen Aggies Chosen as National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellows for 2015

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is one of the most prestigious awards to support graduate students studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Over 16,000 applications were submitted for the 2015 NSF Fellowship competition, resulting in 2,000 award offers. This spring, 17 former Texas A&M University students were selected as 2015 NSF Graduate Fellows, while 9 were named Honorable Mention. Most of these students participated in Honors and Undergraduate Research programs while undergraduates, including 13 who completed an undergraduate research thesis as an Undergraduate Research Scholar, 8 who graduated with Honors distinctions, 2 Undergraduate Research Ambassadors, and 3 Authors for Explorations, the undergraduate journal.

2015 NSF Graduate Fellow Dillon Amaya is a first year PhD student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego. While a Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences major and Oceanography minor at Texas A&M Amaya studied paleoclimate, physical oceanography, and climate change with faculty in the Department of Oceanography as well as the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Amaya, a Summa Cum Laude graduate, was the 2013 recipient of the prestigious Astronaut Foundation Scholarship. A member of the inaugural cohort of Undergraduate Research Ambassadors, he holds a strong interest in communicating science to the public.

In response to his selection Amaya said “I am honored to have been chosen for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. This kind of Fellowship gives me the funding and the freedom to do the exciting and innovative research that interests me the most. None of it would be possible, however, without having participated in substantial undergraduate research at Texas A&M. The experience I gained as an undergraduate made my NSF reviewers sit up and take notice. Every single NSF review I received cited my undergraduate research experience at A&M as the primary reason for my nomination for the award. For this reason, I am forever grateful for the opportunities afforded to me during my undergraduate career.”

Dillon Amaya, Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences ‘14, shows oceanographic instruments to 5th graders on a tour of the research pier at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.
Dillon Amaya, Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences ‘14, shows oceanographic instruments to 5th graders on a tour of the research pier at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.

Alejandro Azocar, another 2015 NSF Graduate Fellow, graduated Summa Cum Laude with University and Aerospace Engineering Honors. During his time at Texas A&M Azocar completed five cooperative education tours at NASA Johnson Space Center, working in three different research labs. As an Undergraduate Research Scholar, he won two best paper awards from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Region IV Conference for his work in unmanned aircraft simulation (2013) and electromyographically-controlled quadrotors (2015).

Azocar also was the recipient of the 2015 Ammon S. Andes National Award from Sigma Gamma Tau, the national aerospace engineering honor society. This award recognized him as the top aerospace engineering student in the United States based upon his academic, service, and extracurricular accomplishments. Azocar credits his mentors and peers at Texas A&M for his success, saying, “Texas A&M surrounded me with incredible people and opportunities, and allowed me to grow as a researcher, leader, and communicator.” This fall Azocar will begin his PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern University. He will be working at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago with a research focus on either bionics or brain-machine interfaces. With NSF support he hopes to develop prosthetic arms, legs, and exoskeletons that can be controlled through the user’s neural signals.

In his spare time Alejandro Azocar, Aerospace Engineering ’15, served as a Texas A&M Foundation Maroon Coat.
In his spare time Alejandro Azocar, Aerospace Engineering ’15, served as a Texas A&M Foundation Maroon Coat.

Honors and Undergraduate Research would like to congratulate the Aggie 2015 National Science Foundation Fellows and Honorable Mentions and acknowledge their valuable contributions to HUR programs!

National Science Foundation 2015 Research Fellowship Awardees:

  • Dillon Amaya, Geosciences, Climate and Large-Scale Atmospheric Dynamics. Undergraduate Research Ambassador and Astronaut Foundation Scholarship recipient
  • Alejandro Azocar, Biomedical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar, University Scholar, and University Honors
  • Ryan Brito, Nuclear Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar, Foundation Honors, University Honors
  • Christopher Chini, Civil Engineering. Foundation Honors
  • Andrea Delgado, Particle Physics. Undergraduate Research Scholar
  • Keith Krenek, Electrical Engineering. University Research Scholar, University Honors
  • Timothy Kroeger, Mechanical Engineering. University Research Scholar, University Honors
  • Anna Means, Materials Engineering
  • Andrew Moehlman, Developmental Biology
  • Lakshmi Nathan, Chemical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar, University Honors
  • Christopher Pannier, Mechanical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar
  • William Scholten, Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering
  • Jeremy Seidel, Chemical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Ambassador
  • Zachary Steelman, Biomedical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar, Honors Fellows, Explorations author
  • Jeffrey Swofford, Social Sciences, Sustainability
  • Jason Szafron, Biomedical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar, Explorations author and Editorial Board
  • William Whitten, Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering. Explorations author

Honorable Mention:

  • Christopher Akers, Theoretical Physics. Undergraduate Research Scholar
  • Shelby Bieritz, Biomedical Engineering. Fulbright Award Grantee, Whitaker Fellowship recipient
  • Charles Giattino, Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Dion Hubble, Materials Engineering
  • Kelli Humbird, Biomedical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar
  • Kristin Nichols, Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar, Foundation Honors, University Honors
  • Jesse Pyle, Microbial Biology
  • Nicholas Rinkenberger,   Microbial Biology. Undergraduate Research Scholar
  • Michael Whitely, Biomedical Engineering

Thirteen Aggies chosen as National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellows for 2013!

By Hayley Cox

photoThe National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) supports outstanding graduate students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics and pursuing research-based Masters and Doctoral degrees. This program reinforces diversity in these fields and encourages fellowship applications from minority groups such as women, racial minorities and the disabled. 2012 marked the GRFP’s 60th anniversary.

Over 13,000 applications were submitted for the 2013 National Science Foundation (NSF) Fellowship competition, resulting in 2,000 award offers. This spring, 13 former Texas A&M University students were selected as 2013 NSF graduate fellows, while 16 were named honorable mentions. Of these students, 12 had previously completed an undergraduate research thesis at Texas A&M as either an Undergraduate Research Scholar or University Undergraduate Research Fellow.

2013 NSF Graduate Fellow Daniel Freeman graduated from Texas A&M University in 2012 with a Bachelors of Science in both mathematics and physics. While at Texas A&M, Freeman had two major research focuses—molecular beam experiments in the chemistry department and cosmology research in the physics department. His work on the molecule chlorine oxide (ClO) was published in the journal Chemical Physics. Freeman graduated as an Undergraduate Research Scholar, receiving the award for Best Research Scholars Thesis in 2012.

Daniel Freeman - NSF Fellow - Chemistry
Daniel Freeman – NSF Fellow – Chemistry
The 2013 NSF Graduate Fellow said, “The NSF fellowship essentially frees me to pursue what I’d like to as a graduate student, which is intellectually liberating.” Freeman said, “I can steer the course of my studies with more freedom than is afforded to many. I greatly appreciate the opportunity.”

Freeman currently attends the University of California at Berkeley where he has completed his first year as a graduate student research assistant interested in the field of Quantum Information Science.

2013 NSF Graduate Fellow Jennifer Bryson graduated from Texas A&M University with University and Mathematics Honors with a degree in mathematics and minors in physics and electrical engineering. During her undergraduate career, Bryson participated in internships with the Department of Defense as well as Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in number theory at Emory University. She was also a dedicated player for and captain of the Texas A&M Women’s Water Polo team.

Jennifer Bryson - NSF Fellow - Mathematical Sciences
Jennifer Bryson – NSF Fellow – Mathematical Sciences
Bryson said, “Texas A&M has been the most amazing undergraduate experience for me, supplying an endless amount of incredible opportunities. I owe a ton to this university and the numerous faculty and staff members who have helped me so much along the way.” She said, “A&M is truly a special place. I’m so thrilled to have more time at the place I love so much!”

Bryson is currently enjoying her summer working on the East Coast on a math research project, and she will be continuing on at Texas A&M in the fall to begin her PhD in mathematics.

The Honors and Undergraduate Research Department (HUR) would like to congratulate the 2013 National Science Foundation Fellows and Honorable Mentions!


Kaila Morgen Bertsch – Materials Sciences

Jennifer Anne Bryson – Mathematical Sciences

Cynthia Marie Castro – Civil Engineering

Jory London Denny – Computer Science

Christian Daniel Freeman – Chemistry

Kim Lani Gonzalez – Cell Biology

Bagrat Grigoryan – Biomedical Engineering

Candice Marie Haase – Biomedical Engineering

Richard Joseph Hendrick – Mechanical Engineering

Landon Daniel Nash – Biomedical Engineering

Katherine Christine Stuckman – Computer Science

Cherish Christony Vance – Biological and Agricultural Engineering

Timothy Daniel Woodbury – Aerospace Engineering

Honorable Mention:

Haron Abdel-Raziq – Electrical Engineering

Brian Bass – Electrical Engineering

Tyler William Behm – Physics and Astronomy

Trevor John Bennett – Aerospace Engineering

Christine Michelle Bergerson – Biomedical Engineering

Alexandra Lynn Bryson – Microbiology

Shannon Lee Cole – Neuropsychology

Nathan Bradley Favero – Political Science

John Robert Haliburton – Biophysics

Matthew Christopher Johnson – Electrical Engineering

Michael Clinton Koetting – Chemical Engineering

Jeehyun Park – Biomedical Engineering

Courtney Nicole Passow – Evolutionary Biology

Kaitlyn Stiles – Biological Anthropology

Laura Timm – Marine Biology

Elizabeth Susan Wilson – Ecology

Anthropology students unearth more than artifacts with research experience

For most students, the summer means spending time with family, catching up with old friends, and getting a job to save up a little money. For two Texas A&M University undergraduate students in the College of Liberal Arts, summer was an entirely different experience.

While their peers were applying sunscreen and lying on warm beaches, anthropology students Angela Gore and Tarah Marks were donning fleece jackets, rolling up their sleeves, and literally getting in over their heads in archaeological research. The two were part of a team that spent the summer excavating the remote Owl Ridge archeological site in Alaska.

Under the supervision of Kelly Graf, research assistant professor of anthropology, Gore and Marks were part of the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, a summer-long program open to undergraduates from across the United States supported by the National Science Foundation, with additional support from Texas A&M’s Center for the Study of the First Americans and Department of Anthropology.

Owl Ridge excavations

The Owl Ridge site, part of the Nenana Complex of archaeological sites, is nestled in the boreal forest near Fairbanks, Alaska, about 20 miles from the nearest road. Owl Ridge contains three distinct layers of artifacts and human debris left behind by peoples believed to occupy the area between 8,000 and 13,000 years ago. Its remote location on a high river terrace adjacent to the convergence of a small creek and the Teklanika River has left the site relatively untouched over the years, offering a wealth of opportunity for discovery.

Gore oversaw the excavation of a manmade cobblestone structure and the area surrounding it. She led a team of other students to search for clues to the nature or purpose of the feature, addressing questions about whether it functioned as a dwelling, a hunting blind, or something else entirely. Her findings indicated that this feature was once used by people during the Younger Dryas – a period of cold climate that affected much of the Northern Hemisphere approximately 12,000 years ago – to shelter them from high winds that likely blew across the terrace top. Stone flakes and well-made scraping tools were found in the excavation area, which revealed that stone tool production and use occurred in close proximity to the cobble feature.

Marks directed an assessment of the formation processes of sediment accumulations at the site and surrounding areas. The process involved trekking through the boreal forest, digging test pits, and observing the sedimentary layers at each test site. She then charted her observations to create a composite profile of sedimentary layers at and around Owl Ridge. She found that stratigraphic profiles from off-site were similar to those on-site, and may indicate the presence of both windblown and water transported sediment over time.

“This was an amazing experience. It is important for students interested in anthropology to gain experience in their field. This program was a great way for me to take a step up from regular classes and helped me gain insight into conducting professional work,” says Marks. Both Gore and Marks are currently working on compiling their findings into formal reports, which will be presented at the 2011 Society for American Archaeology meeting in Sacramento, California.

Owl Ridge excavations

Graf says the experience is useful for both teacher and student.

“I think this was an outstanding opportunity for these students to gain the experience of managing aspects of the Owl Ridge research project and being responsible for reporting their findings,” says Graf. “It helped me show them how research is undertaken, from planning and conducting field research to preparing results in a technical, professional fashion.”

So while this may not have been the type of summer many college students envision for themselves, Gore and Marks might categorize it as priceless.

“I think the most important part of participating in programs like REU is having the opportunity to explore your field of interest, and find out if it is something that you really love doing and can commit to. REU provided me with this opportunity, and gave me confidence in my decision to pursue archaeology in my graduate studies,” says Gore.

Marks also strongly advocates the program’s importance, saying “The techniques I learned and the experience I gained will remain with me forever. After having this opportunity, I am able to not only understand the basics of archeology, but also the planning required to organize and complete an archeological project. These important lessons, along with the ability to critically examine previous research, will help me with graduate school and later to become a better professional anthropologist.”

“Participating in the NSF’s Research Experience for Undergraduates is a must for anyone interested in pursuing their field of study past the undergraduate level,” says Marks.


Story courtesy of the College of Liberal Arts

Contact: Alecia Beriswill, aberiswill89@libarts.tamu.edu, 979.862.8019.

Aggies continue to make strides in research

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded fellowships to study science and engineering at the post-baccalaureate level to several Aggies.  According to the NSF website, “The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited US institutions.” Four recipients explain their award and future plans below.

Charles Zheng, Applied Mathematical Sciences

Zheng was awarded an NSF fellowship for research in biostatistics.  He plans to use the award to support a continued collaboration with the Chapkin Nutritional Science Lab at Texas A&M as well as continue his collaborations with the Fred Hutchinson Center for Cancer Research.  Zheng hopes to become established in the academic world – and maybe discover something new along the way, he added – with his graduate studies.  His goal as a scientist is to use statistical theory to better understand the scientific process.  “This understanding may help us ‘do’ science more effectively or even enable some of it to be automated,” he said.  Zheng will continue his research while pursuing a Statistics Ph. D. at Stanford University next fall.

As Zheng continues in his academic career he is grateful for the chance to participate in research at Texas A&M and all the knowledge he gained from it. “All of my research experiences at Texas A&M – including many efforts which I considered to be failures – were vital for preparing me for my current path to graduate school, and I would not change a single second of it.  I was indeed fortunate to find so many professors at Texas A&M who were generous in sharing their passion for research with me,” he said.

Oscar Carrasco-Zevallos, Biomedical Engineering

Carrasco-Zevallos will be pursuing a Ph. D. in biomedical engineering at Duke University with his NSF award.  His research interest includes developing a new medical imagining technology, Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) that can be used to image up to several millimeters deep into tissue.  Specifically, he will work on merging an OCT system with an intrasurgical microscope to facilitate retinal surgical procedures. 

He hopes to continue performing research after completing his doctorate degree and become a leader in the field of bio-photonics/bio-imaging.    Carrasco-Zevallos credits his studies at Texas A&M with molding his skills and giving him the confidence to continue his academic career. “I believe both the classes I took as a biomedical engineering student and the undergraduate research I partook in gave me the skills and confidence necessary to succeed as a graduate student and beyond. Classes often introduced me to technical concepts, while research allowed me to implement that knowledge in a much more independent setting,” he said.

Zachary Crannell, Biomedical Engineering

Crannell’s NSF fellowship will be used to fund his bioengineering research at Rice University.  There he will work on developing point-of-care diagnostics for use in low-resource settings.  He is working towards completing his Ph.D. in bioengineering, after which he plans to go back to work in the industry and get involved with research and development at a small to medium sized biotech startup company. 

At Texas A&M, Crannell conducted research with Dr. Christopher Quick, Associate Professor in the department of Veterinary Medicine Physiology & Pharmacology, Dr. John Criscione, Associate Professor in the department of Biomedical Engineering, and Dr. Alvin Yeh, Associate Professor in the department of Biomedical Engineering, on a variety of projects including lymphatic flow dynamics, heart failure treatments, and tissue engineering.  Undergraduate research at Texas A&M helped Crannell identify what he wanted to do with his future. “My undergraduate education opened the door to an industry job where I was able to gain valuable business experience which in turn helped me better understand what I want to do in the long run,” said Crannell.

Zachary Sunberg, Aerospace Engineering

Sunberg intends to use his NSF fellowship to complete his Master’s degree in aerospace engineering at Texas A&M, afterwards he plans to continue his education by pursuing a Doctorate degree in the field. His research goals include expanding an engineers’ capability to observe and control dynamic systems, and learning the theory and tools that will help him to create sophisticated aerospace vehicles when he begins work in the industry.  Sunberg had many undergraduate research opportunities while at Texas A&M including work in the Land, Air and Space Robotics Lab.  He also earned the opportunity to accompany Dr. Suman Chakravorty, Associate Professor in the department of aerospace engineering, to the Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque, N.M. as an undergraduate. There he worked on cutting-edge research related to satellite tracking.  “It was extremely rewarding to develop and demonstrate new algorithms that no one had ever conceived of before,” he said.  Today, Sunberg works on applied research into helicopter control systems at the Helicopters and Unmanned Systems Lab at Texas A&M. 

When asked about his future career goals Sunberg said, “First, I hope to make an impact by working in industry on space exploration projects so that we can learn more about our place in the universe and experience its elegance and beauty. After some time working in industry, I hope to return to academia to disperse what I have learned to the next generation of engineers.”  He credits the aerospace engineering faculty with his undergraduate success as well as a solid foundation for his future.  “I am deeply indebted to the aerospace engineering faculty at Texas A&M. They pushed me to my limits in learning, gave me a rock-solid technical engineering background, taught me how to think effectively, and took the time to help me when I was struggling. I am very thankful that I earned my undergraduate degree at A&M because I was able to study under these professors. To a large extent, the education that I received at A&M is what enabled me to receive my National Science Foundation Fellowship,” Sunberg said.

Stacy Prukop – Biomedical Engineering

Prukop is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at Rice University with her NSF award. The support of this award has allowed Prukop to continue researching polymeric materials at the graduate level.  Along with her research the NSF award has made it possible for her to travel to local and international conferences to share her studies and gain exposure to new research areas. 

As an undergraduate at Texas A&M University, Prukop spent most of her time in the choral ensemble Century Singers as well as TAMU UNICEF, an organization which she cofounded.  It wasn’t until the summer of 2009 that Prukop first realized her potential and interest in a career in research as a participant in the Undergraduate Summer Research Grant (USRG).  Under the guidance of Dr. Melissa Grunlan, Associate Professor in the department of biomedical engineering, her research goal was to create and characterize new responsive polymeric biomaterials.  With the support of her research advisor Prukop decided to pursue a doctoral degree after graduation in May 2010.  “Dr. Grunlan taught me the foundations of polymer chemistry in both a class and, most importantly, a laboratory setting. Her approach to research led me to appreciate the challenges and opportunities in this field,” said Prukop. 

As she finishes her second year of research as a doctoral student she credits Texas A&M for providing her with a rare undergraduate experience and a foundation for a successful career in academics. “I truly believe that the high standards Texas A&M University holds all students to and the strong traditions of the university make it a unique and nurturing place for young professionals to begin their successful academic and professional careers,” Prukop said.

Contact: Chrystina Rago, chrysrago@honors.tamu.edu

Study Biodiversity in the Peruvian Amazon

The Applied Biodiversity Science NSF-IGERT Program at Texas A&M announced its annual Amazon Field School will be May 13-31 in the lowland rain forests of southeastern Peru. The course will take place in the Tambopata National Reserve, a region with some of the highest recorded levels of biodiversity in the world. Students will engage in a variety of field methods from the biological and social sciences to evaluate the causes, consequences and solutions to biodiversity loss. Participants will explore a variety of terrestrial and aquatic habitats, visit local communities, organizations and ecotourism lodges, and talk with conservation practitioners and scientists.

Students are required to cover the cost of airfare (approximately $1,300), and some personal expenses (approximately $300), but all other food, lodging and local transportation will be provided. This course confers 3-4 academic credits and all Texas A&M graduate and upper division undergraduate students who have a strong interest in the social and ecological dimensions of biodiversity conservation are eligible.

To apply, send a two-page CV and letter of interest explaining why you want to attend this course by Friday (Dec. 11) to the Applied Biodiversity Science NSF-IGERT Program Coordinator Elizabeth Shapiro:  absigert@tamu.edu. For more information, see: http://biodiversity.tamu.edu/field_school.html.